Last week when it was suggested we visit so and so, I said I wanted be around as I had to work putting together a special 'At The Waters Edge' programme for transmission on Christmas day. "You go" I said "...and I will collect you in the evening".
Christmas day dawned bright with a blue sky and a scattering of white clouds. After breakfast, I filled the bird feeders, loaded the car with tackle and recording equipment, said my good byes then headed off to the river with a grin a mile wide.
After all the rain on Monday I wasn't surprised to see the river had some six inches of extra water conditions; it looked good but I had some doubts, especially as the extra water might contain snow broth from the hills - also all the rubbish we continue to spread on the roads would have ended up in the rivers and streams. Pulling into the car park I realised I would have the river to myself so there was a good chance I could winkle out a chub or two for my listeners.
First job was to put the kettle on. While waiting for it to boil I climbed into my chest high waders, pulled on a thick fleece then clipped on a throat mike and got myself wired up. From this point on, everything would be recorded. I then put together my tackle and Avon rod, 1953 vintage Mitchell 300 which my parents had given me as a Christmas box in that year. I was using 6lb bs Masterline Illusion fluorocarbon line with a size 6 Partridge barbless hook. My baits were luncheon meat, cheese paste and bread.
I also tackled up with a 9 foot 5 weight Thomas and Thomas Horizon fly rod, matched with a double taper 5 floating line with a nine foot leader tapered down to a 3lb tippet. The fly outfit was chosen should I find some feeding grayling. My main quarry would be chub.
With a mug of tea in my hand, I walked across to the waters edge where I checked the water temperature; it was 42 degrees F, not bad after all the frost and snow we have had over the past few nights. A kingfisher swooped down the river, coming to rest on a willow tree on the far bank over a well known minnow pool. It had to be a good day now I'd seen a kingfisher; a few tiny flies were appearing, they were that small I couldn't identify them.
Locking the car I collected my tackle and bait bucket making my way to a large Alder tree upriver which can usually be guaranteed to hold a few chub, all the time I was giving my listeners a running commentary on the events as they happened, a pheasant rocketed skywards from some riverside reeds that had been flattened by the floods. A few yards further up-river, two ducks and three drakes sprang upwards and flew upriver, a dabchick or little grebe dived in a pool opposite. It was great being at the waterside. It was so peaceful, the only sounds were from the wildlife and the river as it flowed from left to right.
Arriving at my first swim I cast a hunk of crust; within seconds the tip moved. I missed the bite. Re-baiting I cast again, a fish grabbed the bait on the drop. I quickly had a nice chub around 4lbs in the net telling my listeners "We must wet our hands before handling a fish". This one was quickly unhooked and released. I had another couple of fish then moved on.
My next spot was below a high bank where the current swept across the river to the far bank leaving a big slack with a nice crease. "Got to be a fish in this swim" I told my listeners. Baiting with a knob of cheese I cast out, rolling the bait downstream. It stopped; the strike connected with a nice fish probably weighing 3lbs. I had five fish from this swim then it went dead, time to move on.
My next swim was at the tail of a weir pool, a swim that had produced some good fish over the years. I pinched on an extra LG shot, baiting with a big piece of crust. I cast out then laid the rod on a rest, it was time for sandwich. I was lucky, the filling was pheasant. Two days before my river keeper friend had given me a brace of oven ready pheasants, they were certainly very tasty. I made myself a mug of chocolate sitting there at peace with the world, the sun was shining brightly on my face making me feel quite warm all I needed was a good pull on the rod tip. Ten, perhaps fifteen, minutes later, the rod tip did pull over. I was into a good chub. After a decent scrap it was netted. I decided to weigh this one; the scales gave a reading of 4-10-0. Out with another bit of crust. Within minutes, another chub - this one went 4-12-0. In the next twenty or thirty minutes I had five more chub three around the 3lb mark, the other two weighed 4-4-0 and 4-6-0.
I introduced a handful of mashed bread and rebaited with another hunk of crust, casting out to the tail of the pool where I was getting all the bites. Nothing happened for some fifteen minutes then the tip flickered. "Was it a bite?" I asked myself; the answer came immediately as the rod tip was pulled round. As I hit the bite the tip pulled right over and the clutch started to whine as line was taken off the reel - this was a good fish! It dived into the fast water and headed upstream. I leaned the rod over to my left, putting on as much pressure as I dare; I could feel the fish making use of the fast water. Slowly but surely, with the balanced tackle and some luck on my part, I started to gain some line. After a few heart stopping moments I had the fish in the slower water and started to drag the fish towards the net with its head out of the water. The fish was mine, barring some bad luck; thirty seconds later the fish was mine.
It was in magnificent condition, in fact I thought it looked as if it had been freshly minted; scale and fin perfect, this fish hadn't seen a hook before. I checked and zeroed the scales, gently moving the fish from landing net to weigh sling, then hoisted the scales skywards. The needle said 5-2-0. Wow, a five pounder on Christmas day; what a lucky guy I was.
I shot a couple of pics on my digital camera then a couple of self portrait shots on my waterproof camera hoping they might come out. I wasn't too worried as I knew the digital pics were OK. I stayed in the pool for another hour or so, catching two more chub and ending the session with 16 chub.
What a super Christmas day's fishing it had been. I didn't miss the turkey with all the trimming, the Queen or the relatives; and hopefully, my listeners had a good fishing programme to listen to as they sat down for dinner.
A Boxing Day Brace of Five's
It was one of those dream sessions today. I hadn't planned to fish but having got all my work finished by 12-30pm, I had some lunch then Kate and I went off fishing.
We had about 2 hours of daylight left when we arrived at a low gin clear river. The weather was extremely cold with the air temperature below zero, the fields were covered in frost and the two riverside ponds were ice covered. The river certainly looked icy cold and it was, checking the water temperature I found it down to 36 degrees F - that's a drop of 6 degrees since Christmas Day. I really didn't expect a bite today in these weather and water conditions. I decided to fish a big piece of crust on a size 6 hook, hoping a suicidal fish would grab hold.
Within a minute of casting out in my first chosen swim the line went slack as a fish dropped back. I struck and found myself attached to a good fish which was quickly netted. It looked a big four so I checked the weight; it went 5-1-0. I was a happy angler as I punched the air. By the end of the session I had five fish; 5-1-0, 4-4-0, 4-6-0, 4-12-0 and on the last cast of the day I had another 5lb fish. Even with three missed bites and two lost fish it was an excellent session.
Having Kate with me it was possible to get a couple of decent shots. I enclose a pic of a 5-1-0 fish caught on my first cast within a minute of casting out.
Mr Martin James